What is your role in agriculture?
Right now I see my role in agriculture as helping create a culture that supports all forms of agriculture. There are two aspects to this: the public and the agriculture industry. I work to help the public understand and embrace modern agriculture. I also strive to help the agriculture industry to see the value in working together and using technology – especially social media and video platforms – to actively engage with the public.
What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?
Growing up on a farm naturally tends to make one an agvocate because you have been able to see and experience first-hand the value that agriculture has. Those of us who have left the farm, I think, have a unique opportunity to be agvocates because we have a foot in each world – the farm life and the non-farm life. I was only in college for a few weeks when I met someone who said that until driving from Seattle to Washington State University (through the bread basket of Washington) he thought farms didn’t exist anymore, except as something like civil war reenactments! It was common in my family to bring friends home from school to give them a taste of the farm life. A favorite of ours was letting them try to start a siphon tube. Whenever relatives visited, we always took them on a “farm tour” to see how the crops were doing and to educate them about the natural history of the area. So I guess agvocating was just a part of life as I grew up.
What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?
My favorite part is seeing a farmer’s eyes light up as the share about their passion for agriculture without feeling defensive and seeing their quiet pride come through. When ag folks are authentically passionate without being defensive, I think that is when they can really reach people.
What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?
The most challenging part of being an agvocate is seeing the division and lack of unity of purpose within the agriculture field itself. In my experience, few recognize the need to promote farmers themselves, not just their commodity. Some people in the ag industry see the need to promote a common message about farmers beyond marketing a product, but too few do. To me this is the greatest weakness and threat to agriculture today.
What advice for other farmer/ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?
The public needs to see that you are a real person. Be human and real with them. Admit mistakes. Most of all, it can’t be all about you. If you want people to hear your message, you need to understand what motivates them. You need to care about them, too.
What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or Twitter chat?
I attended the AgChat conference in Austin, TX. I was very impressed with how many people from the midwest were actively agvocating. There don’t seem to be nearly as many agvocating – at least using social media – on the West Coast.
What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?
I am very supportive of the AgChat Foundation’s mission. It is so necessary for those in the ag industry to learn to use social media to virtually leave the farm and bring others to their farm. Our culture is having a huge discussion about where their food comes from and for too long we have been letting others tell our story for us. AgChat gives people the tools to become part of the conversation once again.
Karla Salp grew up on a farm in George, WA. Although she loved living on a farm, she never imagined that she would be working in the agriculture field one day. After working as a crime victim advocate for a decade, she returned to her agriculture roots when starting to work for a statewide agriculture organization called Washington Friends of Farms & Forests. Part of her role there included educating the public about agriculture through their “Washivore” project. Karla also served for a year as the Executive Director of Washington Grown, a nonprofit dedicated to educating the public about agriculture through a television show and social media engagement. Karla currently works for the Washington State Department of Agriculture as a public outreach specialist.